Regional WA to pay for a metro-centric election promise: Vasse MP

Busselton Taxi owners Jeff and Janet Devenny with Vasse MP Libby Mettam and bus operator Ray Gannaway.
Busselton Taxi owners Jeff and Janet Devenny with Vasse MP Libby Mettam and bus operator Ray Gannaway.

The state government want to impose a 10 per cent levy on WA bus operators and taxis which would be used to compensate the taxi industry.

The move has outraged Busselton bus operator Ray Gannaway who said his industry were never aligned to the taxi industry and were now the one industry in WA singled out, outside of the taxi industry, to pay a tax which would predominately compensate Perth taxi drivers.

The state government have proposed a voluntary taxi plate buy back scheme, which would be temporarily funded by the industry and bus operators over four years.

Mr Gannaway said the policy would impinge on the most vulnerable people in the community including children and seniors who did not have the skills to drive to Perth or pay for overnight accommodation.

“Last year we took 500 people to see the Lion King at a matinee because they physically had no other way of getting to Perth and back,” he said.

“We do them a package deal which gets them home to Busselton in daylight so they feel safe and secure.

“The government want to slug a 10 per cent levy onto those vulnerable age groups.”

Mr Gannaway said the financial cost to his business would amount to $250,000 and would cost the industry 38.5 cents in every dollar which included other insurances and fees just to be in the industry.

“The people of WA who are actually using the taxi service should fund it not the bus and coach industry,” he said. 

Busselton Taxi owners Jeff and Janet Devenny said the proposed reforms to the taxi industry would hurt operators in regional WA who would not be compensated at this time.

As part of the reform the government have proposed removing restrictions on when, where and how taxis operate meaning a taxi driver could work anywhere in the state.

The impact of ride sharing has been felt by Busselton Taxis, with Mr Devenny saying they were down 40 to 50 jobs on Friday and Saturday nights.

Ms Devenny said the reforms would reduce the quality of service, would not require regional operators to provide a 24/7 service or have vehicles to transport people who required wheelchair access.

“Share riders can come in and do one job in the morning or do 10 jobs on a Friday night whenever they feel like it, as regional operators we are here for everyone across the board we do not discriminate.

“Once there are no regional operators in WA ride sharers will price surge.”

Ms Devenny said they prided themselves on providing a good service to the town and noted on Christmas Day alone they transported 38 people who required a taxi with wheelchair access to their families.

“We are there at 5.30am when FIFO workers need a lift to get to the airport and there at 1.30am when South West Coach Lines bring people home,” Mr Devenny said.

“Ride sharers do not have to be there to do that, but we do, and we pride ourselves on that.”

Transport Minister Rita Saffioti did not answer questions on why the bus industry would be being slugged but said they had received feedback and would undertake further consultation. 

Ms Saffioti said the government was still liaising with regional operators and were considering a number of options to support them during the temporary levy period.

“We intend to have a support package for regional operators in agreement before the new legislation is introduced to the state parliament,” she said.

“It is important to note that that revenue collected from regional operators will be used to support regional services and not used to fund the buy-back for taxi plates in the metropolitan area.

“Regional taxi operators will benefit from the proposed reforms as they will allow operators to compete and diversify their services.”

Vasse MP Libby Mettam said the reforms had the potential to cripple some operators in regional WA to pay for a metro-centric election promise.

“It is an extremely unfair revenue-raising exercise without any regard for how it will affect this vital service in towns across WA,” she said.

Ms Mettam said the scheme should only be imposed where alternative services such as Uber were operating and taxis were eligible for the government’s buy-back scheme.

“In areas where taxis are often the only mode of transport available for some seniors, the disabled, tourists and others who cannot drive or have access to public transport, this is extremely concerning.”